Rain Has Arrived in Havana / Iván García

Photo: Josh Michtom, Flickr

The habaneros were screaming for it. After 9 months of a fierce drought, where water-laden clouds kept moving around the city, and the dams and reservoirs had gone to code red, the rain appeared.

Now, when the month of May leaves us, the longed-for spring showers made themselves present. Children and teens in shorts, barefoot and shirtless enjoyed the first serious rain of the season

Some adults also joined the party. And worried. Water reserves in Havana reach only 18%. And added to that, more than 60% is lost every night because of leaks in the whole capital. The alarming shortage made the water authorities give a new turn of the screw in the distribution of the precious liquid in the capital.

In most neighborhoods of Havana, on alternate days, usually after 8 pm at night, potable water is distributed to the population. In the old part of town there are places where running water has never reached the tap.

There are houses with pipes thick with magnesium and garbage. Nemesio, a resident of Laguna Street in the marginal and largely black suburb of San Leopoldo, has forgotten the last time he took a shower.

In these places, the birthplace of prostitutes and swindlers, the “pipers”, as they call those who handle the “pipes” or tank trucks, often make a lot of money. A family in a three-story tenement, with some resemblance to a U.S. prison from the mid-20th century, pays up to $20 for the “piper” to fill their water tanks.

In these parts, water has its price. Types who came from the east of the country who live underground in Havana, charge 4 dollars to fill up a 55-gallon tank. And believe me, there’s enough work. With the first rains of May, people breathed a sigh of relief.

“We now need it to rain every day for two months, in order to take the bad away,” says a santera. Like her, there are many people afraid of the vagaries of time. The news from the north and south is frightening. Murderous tornadoes in the U.S. and endless rain in South America. As if to show that the world is upside down.

In Arroyo Arenas, municipality of La Lisa, west of the capital, there was an intense local storm, which dropped hail the size of lemons. The rains of May also brought thunderous lightning, and because of deficiencies in drains and sewers, the streets were flooded.

But that’s not important. Habaneros were clamoring for rain, so the dams and the water table are overflowing. We’ll see if these showers alleviate the African heat.

The showers of May have returned a smile to residents and authorities. Let the water continue. Let Havana become Macondo.*

Translator’s note: Macondo is a fictional town created by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It suffered a four-year rainfall.

Translated by Regina Anavy

May 28 2011